Earlier this year we collaborated with Jumia House to send out surveys to people all over Ghana about what they considered affordable housing. Among other things, we found that 89% of respondents were dissatisfied with their current housing situations.
The #StateofAccommodation event was a follow up to the survey to find out more about the state of housing and affordable housing in Ghana, as well as an opportunity for attendants to pose questions to real estate agents and other housing experts. In attendance were representatives from the Rent Control Department, Cities Alliance, a social impact group that advocates for affordable housing, Westfields Real Estate, a real estate developer, and an independent Architecture & Planning professional who specializes in sustainable housing.
We learnt a lot about rent, building, and owning property, and since we know not all of you were able to make it to the event, we decided to share everything we learnt with you all!.
Owning Land and Property
Should you buy land or a house?
Buy land, because it’s a good investment and it’s also cheaper to build on your own land than to buy a completed house. A real estate and land broker present advised that you shouldn’t wait to buy land, because it has a higher interest rate than treasury bills, and so it will gain value faster. If you’re worried about being caught up in litigation, buy directly from a developer who sells serviced plots.
How do I go about owning or building my own home?
-Save no matter how low your salary is. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry; Hacking Adulthood’s got you.
-Prioritize your needs and dedicate a portion of your savings to housing
-Put your money in investment instruments to speed up capital growth. Don’t just leave it in a savings account, because usually the interest rates for those are low.
-Consider pooling your finances with friends/family and entering into a sharing arrangement for a basic starter home. The property will be cheaper than if you each individually bought it on your own. This is common practice in many other African countries, such as Kenya.
What should you look out for when buying land?
- Double and triple check the land title – In addition to ensuring the owner of the land is actually the owner in state records, ensure the coordinates of the land match the state record coordinates.
- Find out if it’s family land (if so, get an indenture) or stool land (then it’s best to stay away).
How do you safeguard your land from squatters while you’re waiting to build?
It’s not advisable to buy land if you’re not planning to develop it for a long period (over 5 years) because of squatters rights and the danger of losing the land to a squatter who may have more rights to the land than you do. If you do buy land several years from when you are planning to develop it, there are some things you can do to protect yourself in the interim.
- Get an indenture with clearly stated terms that protect you against squatters rights. For instance, your indenture could specify that the land cannot be reclaimed unless it has not been developed after 10 years (or any reasonable time period that you don’t expect to exceed)
- Develop your land and monitor it. Development doesn’t necessarily mean building a foundation; it could also be building a wall or weeding the land regularly. Just be active on the land so it’s easier for you to prove that you have an active presence and interest in the last.
I would rather buy property from a developer than build my own house. What questions should I be asking my developer?
- Can the land title be verified?
- How long is the land lease and what happens to my property when the lease expires?
- What type of materials have been/are being used?
- How long will the development take?
- Does the developer have a Certificate of Habitation in addition to a building permit?
It is also possible to have developer sign against defects liability for a period of years (typically a minimum of 2 dry and 2 wet seasons/2 years) so that you don’t make a loss if you realize after two months that sub-par roofing sheets were used to build your flat.
What are the legal reasons for my landlord to increase rent?
- Increase in the property rate
- The landlord has made an improvement that’s beneficial to you, the tenant.
In any other circumstance, according to the law, your rent should not be increased.
What does Rent Control do?
Rent Control settles disputes between landlords and tenants. Reach out to the nearest office if your landlord requires more than one year’s rent in advance. Soon there will be an ct that makes it illegal for landlords to require more than one year’s rent advance and for tenants to pay more than one year’s rent advance. This will mean that it’s both parties’ responsibility to follow the law, and give tenants extra motivation to fight for their rights.
Rent Control also conducts assessments on behalf of landlords to determine rental prices. Rent should be based only on Rent Control’s assessment and not on what the landlord thinks he/she deserves based on the type of community or location of property.
Every Rent Control office nationwide is legally mandated to maintain a register of vacant accommodation. Visit the nearest office if you’re experiencing housing search struggles.
What is affordable housing?
Policy states that affordable housing requires spending not more than 30% of your gross income on accommodation. However this 30% is relative based on factors such as average income levels, housing standards and mean house prices.
According to the market, any property for sale below $15,000 in Accra is “affordable.” Affordable rent must not be above 500 cedis a month regardless of the type of accommodation (apartments, compound houses, etc).
However, the truth is, accommodation at these rates is often hard to find and/or too far away from the city centre for most of us.
What can you do to address the #StateofAccommodation?
Difficulties finding acceptable and affordable housing, and 2 year rent advances that border on extortion, are issues that everyone faces, but no one is taking to the street about them. If you’re interested in changing the status quo, there are a few things you can do.
- Form social pressure groups and/or join the Affordable Housing coalition (contact @JumiaHouseGhana for more information)
- Start thinking outside yourself; if you have a driver, ask where he lives. Ask your house girl where she lives. You should care about improving their standard of living as well as your own, because until the whole of Ghana improves, the housing disparities will only widen. We need to thinking as communities instead of as individuals.
- Keep talking about the issues of affordable accommodation facing us all. Tweet, blog, and share your struggles and never let the conversation die down.
- Pressure your local government to be more active in determining property rates and not focus solely on just distributing building permits.